Huawei launches its first 5G foldable smartphone to take on Samsung


Video/Liu Chunshan (MWC 2019 at Barcelona)

Feb.25 (NBD) -- Chinese smartphone maker Huawei showcased a foldable smartphone Mate X at an event at Mobile World Congress 2019 at Barcelona on Sunday, striking back at Samsung just days after the South Korean firm unveiled its first consumer-ready foldable device Samsung Galaxy Fold.  

Audiences were amazed by the craft and cannot help screaming as it can unfold into an 8-inch tablet from a slim 6.6-inch smartphone and there is not even an opening in the middle when the screen is folded. 

Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei's consumer business group, says the phone will run on the company's self-developed Kirin 980 processor and Balong 5000 chipset, which supports 5G network. The super-fast chipset allows users to download a 1 gigabyte movie in just three seconds. It gives Huawei a little head start as Samsung's new flagship is a 4G-powered one.

However, people teased that the price tag for Mate X is "astronomical". It is noticed that a Huawei Mate X (8GB + 512G) is priced at 2,299 euros (2,640.5 U.S. dollars), which is around 660 U.S. dollars more than Samsung's Galaxy Fold.

Yu previously disclosed that Huawei engineers have been working for three years to develop the patented "falcon wing" hinge that sits at the center of the device. He said in response to media that he doesn't know whether the pricing is reasonable as there was no such thing before.

In contrast to Samsung's foldable smartphone that opens outwards like a book. Huawei wraps the display around the exterior. Unlike a tablet, the Galaxy Fold enables 3-way multitasking and can seamlessly switch its app among different screens. In addition, it has teamed up with Google to tailor the Android system to foldable screens.

Jia Mo, an analyst of research firm Canalys, noted that both the two phones have found solutions for foldable displays and they have their own advantages and disadvantages. Samsung needs two screens to merge into a larger display, but the durability of Huawei Mate X is also in question. But with more smartphone vendors joining the team, there will be more solutions, bringing new challenges to the sector.

It is worth noting that foldable phone has a promising market. Strategy Analytics predicted that the shipment of foldable phones will hit 700,000 units in 2019, 30.4 million by 2021 and 50.1 million by 2023, respectively.

However, compared with common smartphones, foldable ones are costly. Besides, challenges remain in areas such as the cover, hinge, touch screen and supporting software. NBD learned that OPPO cancelled its plan to showcase its foldable phone at MWC this year as its vice president Shen Yiren think the technology of making such phone hasn't matured.

Jia Mo also noted that currently, the costs and whether the apps can fit into the new display are influential factors for consumers to make the final decision. Otherwise, it will not be sensible to buy such products at the cost of stability and accessibility.

It is noticed Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X will hit the market in April and June this year respectively.

Some people think Samsung has an advantage over Huawei on supply chain. Foldable phones have high demand for panels and Samsung has its own panel production line. Therefore, Galaxy Fold can be mass produced. For Huawei, it will take at least 6 months to achieve mass production of its foldable phone, reported Beijing Youth Daily citing internet website observer Ge Jia.

Although domestic OLED panel maker BOE is trying to catch up and favored by the market, it is still one step behind Samsung in terms of OLED panel's cost, performance and yield rate. This could hold the development of domestic foldable smartphone makers.